The Visual Resources Centre still houses a vast collection of glass lantern slides and 35mm slides. Not only do they act as a resource for researching artworks but they are a pedagogical collection which aids the study of the history of the history of art. Many history of art departments have disposed of their historic slide collections as they are an outdated technology. This makes it all the more important to hold on to collections which were once common place and are now becoming rare.
A particular highlight of both collections are the slides of Oxford and its colleges and museums.
The Visual Resources Centre houses approximately 65,000 3 1/4 inch glass plate lantern slides, dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The focus of the collection is UK and European Architecture and European Artists but also includes some slides related to book architectural drawings, book illustrations and English theatre design.
These slides were a teaching resource for University tutors and lecturers but are now quite rare. Some were made at the request of Professor Edgar Wind, the first Professor of Art History at the University. Other slides were acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum but the accession history for the collection is largely unknown.
Though most of the slides are black and white photographs, there are also a small number of hand-painted colour slides.
Approximately 700 slides have been digitised and are available to view on HEIR (Historic Environment Image Resource), a School of Archaeology project to digitise slides from collections across the University.
There are approximately 90,000 35mm slides in the Visual Resources Centre. Historically these were used for teaching purposes within the University and are primarily of art and architecture. Although there many slides of other subjects including Chinese ceramics, book illustrations, furniture, coins and medals, to name a few.
The Colvin Slide collection in the History of Art Department Visual Resources Centre comprises of hundreds of photographic slides owned by Sir Howard Montagu Colvin (1919-2007). The majority of the collection is comprised of slides taken by Colvin himself on travels throughout the United Kingdom, Continental Europe and Scandinavia in the 1960s and 1970s. They primarily show building exteriors, from major Universities (Pavia, Siena), cathedrals, and churches to small cottages. Colvin’s travel companions are occasionally photographed, including James Crompton and Oxford historian William Abel Pantin (1902-1973), in Venice (September and October 1970).
Edgar Wind was the University of Oxford's first Professor of History of Art from 1955-1967. Wind gained a reputation for his inspiring lectures which were hugely popular. A key part of these talks were the glass lantern slides and 35mm slides that Wind had made for his lectures. This large collection has stayed with the Department of History of Art and is now housed in the Visual Resources Centre.
Other material relating to Edgar Wind can be found at the Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library and Bodleian Libraries.